Hydatid Disease

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OpenStax Microbiology

Another cestode, Echinococcus granulosus, causes a serious infection known as hydatid disease (cystic echinococcosis). E. granulosus is found in dogs (the definitive host), as well as several intermediate hosts (sheep, pigs, goats, cattle). The cestodes are transmitted through eggs in the feces from infected animals, which can be an occupational hazard for individuals who work in agriculture.

Once ingested, E. granulosus eggs hatch in the small intestine and release the larvae. The larvae invade the intestinal wall to gain access to the circulatory system. They form hydatid cysts in internal organs, especially in the lungs and liver, that grow slowly and are often undetected until they become large. If the cysts burst, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur.

Cysts present in the liver can cause enlargement of the liver, nausea, vomiting, right epigastric pain, pain in the right upper quadrant, and possible allergic signs and symptoms. Cysts in the lungs can lead to alveolar disease. Abdominal pain, weight loss, pain, and malaise may occur, and inflammatory processes develop.

E. granulosus can be detected through imaging (ultrasonography, CT, MRI) that shows the cysts. Serologic tests, including ELISA and indirect hemagglutinin tests, are used. Cystic disease is most effectively treated with surgery to remove cysts, but other treatments are also available, including chemotherapy with anti-helminthic drugs (albendazole or mebendazole).


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology